Action plan: How to organise your graduate job search

man talking on the phone looking for a job

Fresh out of university and looking for that all-important graduate role? Here's how to formulate the first steps of your career with a powerful, effective plan of action.

Looking for your first job after graduating from university can be a challenge. The years spent studying for your degree provided you with structure and an end date to pursue, which you may have grown accustomed to. But all of a sudden, the post-university job hunt throws you into a world without the structure you’re used to.

However, what can be challenging doesn’t necessarily have to be stressful. Now you have the flexibility to approach the application process in your own way, allowing you to prioritise your time and methods during what can be quite an uncertain period of your life. And since you have more free time, you can prepare a plan to make sure you get the best out of your job search.

To make sure your job hunt is as productive as possible, we’ve come up with some advice to help you to stay organised through the process.

Don’t be afraid to take some time out first

It may seem like time is of the essence when it comes to the job hunt, but before you dive headfirst into applying for roles, it might be beneficial to take some time out for yourself. You’ve just completed a degree, so it’s only natural that you’d want to take a break after all the studying.

Whether it’s between finishing exams and graduating or it’s for a few months, many graduates allow themselves a rest period to recharge before starting their job search. However long you’re planning to take off, you might want to let your parents know about your planned hiatus before you begin applying for jobs. Otherwise, they might think you’re putting it off indefinitely, causing unnecessary stress and frustration after a few days of moving back in with them.

man searching for jobs online

Make yourself the right applicant

Once you’re ready to start your job search, it’s a good idea to start picturing yourself as the ideal candidate. Write down your skills and characteristics so you know what you can offer to employers.

Additionally, list your achievements and include examples from your previous work or university experience to back up your attributes. Giving evidence of your achievements gives you a strong starting point, beginning your job hunt on a positive note.

Manage your social media presence

Whatever social channels you use, it’s a good idea to give your profile a spruce up before you begin applying anywhere. Employers use your social channels to find out more about you and if the first thing they see are “compromising” pictures from university, then it doesn’t always reflect well.

Take the time to keep your personal life separate from your professional one. Whether it’s adjusting your profile’s privacy settings or deleting dodgy pictures or controversial tweets you made a few years ago, it’s important to be mindful of the effects social media can have on your application.

Create a system and use it

Think about what works best for you in your job search. You might opt for a similar approach that was helpful during your university studies.

Perhaps you favoured spreadsheets to stay organised or you found mind maps beneficial. Whatever you go for, use these preferred tools to help keep track of your job-hunting progress – and stick to them! It’s no use going to all that effort to create a system that you don’t use.

If it’s a spreadsheet, for instance, make sure you’re adding to it and marking certain tasks that have been completed. Make a note of what needs to be done next so that you can see the progress you’re making over the course of your search too.

woman searching for jobs online

Stick to a routine that works for you

Make sure you’re devoting sections of your day to your job hunt but give yourself time for breaks and exercise too. At the beginning of the day, make a list of things that need completing and assign them to the morning or the afternoon if you feel like your day needs more structure.

Whether it’s keeping track of all the different opportunities available to you or a set number of applications you need to send off, cross each task from your list as you complete them. Likewise, make a note of which stage of the recruitment process you’re at by logging your progress.

Both of these approaches help to break down the application process into smaller steps – minimising those overwhelming feelings that lead you to rushing through all of your applications.

Similarly, it’s important to define your hours. Whatever time of day works best for you and however much time you give yourself, make sure there’s a clear start and end. Clearly defining when you finish lets you clock off for the day, and allows you to do something else other than job hunting.

Be flexible in your approach

Since there’s no real end date to a job hunt, you’ve got plenty of time to review how things are going and make any changes to your approach if necessary. For instance, if you’ve sent off your fair share of applications but rarely hear anything back, then it may be worth spending more time and effort on a smaller amount of applications – taking care to tailor them more specifically to each employer.

Conversely, if you have some time left over after applying to the vacancies you like the look of, then you might want to apply to a few others as a backup.

shaking hands

Don’t take rejection personally

It’s an unfortunate truth that rejection is simply part of the application process. Over the course of your job search, you may feel de-motivated if you’re unsuccessful or don’t hear back from your prospective employer at all.

While it’s easy to feel bad about such occurrences, it’s important to use them as a learning process. If you’ve received any feedback, then use it as a way to improve your technique – your unsuccessful applications will serve as practice for later opportunities.

Similarly, try to avoid hanging all your hopes on one job. You may limit yourself by attaching yourself to that one role in the hope of landing it.

Keep applying for other roles, even if there’s been positive progression on the one you’ve got your heart set on. It’s always better to receive multiple job offers as opposed to none at all.

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